WASHINGTON (May. 10)
Israeli Ambassador Moshe Arens declared today that the United States had a common interest with Israel in maintaining an Israeli presence on the West Bank.
“The alternative to the Israeli presence on the West Bank is a PLO state in the area, “Arens told some 500 persons at a luncheon at the Washington Hilton during the first day of the two-day 23rd annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). He said a state controlled by the Palestine Liberation Organization would be “a mortal danger to Israel, a grave danger to all Western interests in the area.”
Arens charged that the violence on the West Bank is the result of a “desperate” and “last ditch” attempt by the PLO to prevent Palestinian Arabs from participating in the autonomy negotiations and to “abort” the Camp David peace process.
“I know that everybody in the United States, and certainly the supporters of Israel in the United States, are unhappy with some of the scenes they see on the television screens, “he noted. “I want to assure you that nobody agonizes more about this difficulty than the people of Israel themselves, and in Israel nobody agonizes more about these terrible problems than the Prime Minister, Menachem Begin”.
THE SITUATION IN LEBANON
The Israeli envoy also maintained that it was in the common interest of Israel and the U.S. “to see Lebanon returned to independence and sovereignty” and have it aligned with the West and ready to sign a peace treaty with Israel. But he said that in the present, 65 percent of Lebanon is controlled by Syria and another 15 percent by the PLO, both of whom receive support from the Soviet Union. Arens said that the PLO, which controls the coastal area from Beirut south to the part held by the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) provides a “clear and present almost-day to day danger” to the people in northern Israel. He said no settlers were injured by PLO bombardment yesterday because they spent the day in shelters. But he stressed that people cannot live all their lives in shelters.
Arens also reiterated his warning to the U.S. against arming the Arab states. He said the weapons will not be used against the Soviet Union but against Israel. In particular he warned against providing arms to Jordan which he noted is in a state of war with Israel.
The envoy also pointed out that the British in the Falkland Islands dispute have emphasized the “solidarity of democratic countries.” He said that when Israel has faced dangers from non-democratic regimes, the British have not always come to the aid of democratic Israel. He expressed the hope that Britain may now have learned its lesson.
Morton Silberman of Miami took over today as president of AIPAC, succeeding Lawrence Weinberg of Beverly Hills, Calif.